Exploring Colour – Earth Tones

Before I get going with today’s post, I’d like to address a concern one of my readers shared with me about the animated images I’ve been including in my recent posts.

As you may know, I’m currently taking part in a 30-day blogging challenge, and as part of the challenge rules, we get ‘bonus points’ (i.e. nothing) for including an animated gif in each post. It’s just a bit of fun to liven up the challenge.

The reader in question was concerned that these were in fact videos, that were constantly using up bandwidth, as long as the email was on her phone, computer or iPad, and that in turn was causing her batteries to drain faster than usual.

I’d like to assure you all that these are not video clips, they are animated gifs, a type of image consisting of a number of frames that are shown on a loop.

This kind of image is only slightly larger in filesize than a regular, non-animated image, and once it is loaded it doesn’t continue to use your bandwidth, and certainly doesn’t have any effect on the battery life of your devices.

Having said that, I am certainly not in this to annoy my readers, so in an effort to avoid any further concern or annoyance, I will stop adding these gifs to my posts and stick to static images from now on!

Anyway, hey I’m about to hit my 250 word count target. Maybe I’ll just leave it here for today!

Just kidding 🙂

Earth Tones

Earth tones are muted colours such as browns, tans, and warm greys. A lot of these are pretty dark colours, and when you squeeze them from the tube it can be difficult to tell them apart, and so it’s hard to know what they will look like in your paintings.

The easiest way to compare dark colours is to mix them with white, so I’ve taken 4 earth tones – Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna and Asphaltum – and mixed each of them with white so we can compare them easily:


On the left is the tube colour. As you can see they all look pretty similar, except the Burnt Sienna, which is noticably lighter and more red than the others.

When you mix them with white you can see the characteristics of each pigment:

  • Raw Umber is a fairly neutral greyish brown
  • Burnt Umber is much warmer, but still quite muted
  • Burnt Sienna is a much more saturated orangey brown
  • Asphaltum leans more towards a yellowish grey

So the colours, which seem so similar in their original state, actually vary widely in their appearance, when mixed with white (or other colours).

I was once recommended to use Asphaltum as a substitute for Burnt Umber. As you can see, they are two very different colours, so that was probably not the best advice!

Let’s take a look at the different greys you can get from mixing each of those colours with Ultramarine Blue (and white):



The possibilities with colour are endless, and I encourage you to do experiments with colour like the one above. If you’re not sure of the difference between two kinds of blue, mix them with white and see what you get. Try mixing them with their complemetary colours, or any other colours, and make notes on your findings.

The only way to get experience with colour is to get mixing!





  1. Bryce Avatar

    Nice one Dan! And thank you for stopping those ‘gifs’, they were pretty annoying. Best, Bryce.

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